Green Home Design - Save Energy Through Natural Design

One method of creating a green home design, is to utilize methods in your home with which we can minimize or even eliminate our air-conditioning and thus, save energy. If you are building a new home consider each one of these tips and try to implement them into your home design with your architect or home designer. If you are planning a major remodeling project, many of these items can be utilized as well. Also consider entering the LEED for Homes program for a very structured energy saving plan.

Things You Will Need

A green rated architect, well versed in green design principles.
Also consider a LEED for homes builder and LEED for Homes provider as developed by the USGBC (United States Green Building Council).

Step 1

Select the Proper Orientation

Proper Orientation on the Site

Utilization of natural methods to cool you home starts with some very basic decision-making on the proper siting of your home. It is essential that you design your home to fit the site and not design the home plan and then search for a site. Proper siting of the structure on the land includes such items as proper orientation to prevailing winds, sun angles and of course views. Orient you home so it is at a 45 degree angle to the prevailing wind direction. This will give you superior natural ventilation of all occupied spaces. This is one of the most critical design decisions in green home design.

Step 2

Block Direct Sunlight

Once the home is situated on the site, next consider the sun angles for different times of the year. Pay close attention to the summer sun angles for the natural cooling aspects of the home. Extend overhangs to cut-off direct sunlight entering the occupied spaces. Covered porches, entrances etc. on the windward site of the home for outdoor comfort is an important consideration as well. Sun from east and west exposures can be difficult to handle due to the low angles in the morning and evening. So try to minimize glazed areas on the east and west exposures.

Step 3

Install Clerestory Windows

Clerestory Windows

Consider the addition of clerestory windows in your home design. Clerestory windows are located up high in your living spaces and when operable, and combined with low windows, they allow you to experience the "chimney effect", in which cooler air enters the space from near the floor and the warmer air exits through the clerestory, or high windows. Clerestory windows need to be carefully designed with adequate overhangs so you minimize direct sunlight into the living spaces. Clerestory windows are also a great way to introduce natural daylighting into core areas of your home.

Step 4

Cross Ventilation is Key

Cross ventilation is a key factor in naturally cooling your home. If there are windows only on one wall and very near each other, the ventilation factor from wind will be minimal. It is like blowing into a bag. Try to locate operable windows on opposite walls, as far apart as possible. You can also utilize clerestory windows or operable skylights to optimize air flow. Check out casement windows as they offer more control to capture wind from different directions and can be open during periods of light rain, by varying which leaf of the window is open.

Step 5

Foam Insulation In Walls & Ceiling

Insulate Your Walls and Ceilings

Don't save a little money by cutting down on insulation. The best insulation to consider is a foam based insulation, which fills in all cracks, around electrical devices and does not shrink. Be sure to consider sustainable design choices of soy-based foam insulations, which are very environmentally friendly. Super insulation in your ceiling or attic spaces is a good energy saving design choice as well. I would recommend R-38 as the minimum for ceiling/roof insulation.

Step 6

Ventilate Attics

Ventilate your attic spaces and that goes double for cathedral ceiling spaces. Make sure you place plenty of soffit ventilation and ridge and or gable venting so your roof can breathe and ventilate all the hot, moist air. This is also essential for the prevention of ice dams during the winter months. According the the ASHRAE standard of 1/300 which means provide 1 sf of ventilation for each sf of attic space. This is an absolute minimum and the 1/300 rule applies to both soffit and ridge ventilation requirements. Again this is the "chiminey effect", supply low and return high.
Greening up your home does not have to be difficult or expensive. Most decisions are based on an either or route and do not even involve money. This is a great way to utilize"organic design". Pay attention you what nature is telling you and design with nature and don't try to force design decisions. If you find yourself making a forced decision it is probably not the correct decision and you should re-evaluate.

Please refer to additional green design items in my second article on this subject.

Tips & Warnings